How yoga helped me tap into the deeper joy of running
Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]
I’m getting ready to start training for a few half-marathons this fall, so I’ve begun psyching myself up for going on runs that last more than 45 minutes.
I used to run decent distances — seven to 10 miles on weekends — pretty frequently almost year-round, but since I’ve gotten deeper into my yoga journey, I’ve traded long trips on the Monon for shorter jaunts in my neighborhood to allow myself time to get to my mat.
While I’ve cut the duration of my runs, I’ve grown dramatically in how much I enjoy them. And I have yoga to thank for that.
I’ve always cherished running time. When I’m running with other people, I enjoy great conversations and a sense of bonding over the shared experience and challenge.
On days I run by myself, I relish the opportunity to tune out the stresses of everyday life, the need to be “on” and to converse. I simply let my mind focus on whatever it grasps at the moment – whether that is imagining how the next five years of my life might unfold, contemplating the lyrics of a song on my playlist or just enjoying the feel of the pavement against the soles of my shoes.
It’s not exactly a meditation, but a basking in the state of the moment.
Through yoga I’ve strengthened my ability to tune out unpleasant or stressful thoughts and tune into what my body is feeling. I’ve built the mental discipline to endure physical strain – remembering that it, like most things in life, is only temporary. And I’ve stopped focusing on the end game so much – the muscle toning, calorie burning and other superficial motivations that in the past have driven me to exercise. Instead, I’ve started really enjoying the act of exercising itself.
I incorporated these principals into my training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last fall. When I was doing super-long runs to prepare for the 26.2 miles, I would tell myself that I was really just going on a long road trip and that I should prepare myself to enjoy a great playlist and the scenery along the way (those 20-plus-mile runs, after all, took me about the same amount of time it would take to drive to visit my parents in Springfield, Illinois – more than three hours).
I would not allow myself to anticipate reaching the last mile but kept my mind engaged and focused on the journey as it unfolded. And I when I felt pain, which was frequently, I would remind myself that it would be over soon enough. A few hours, after all, is really a short time span in the scheme of things.
What did bringing these elements into my running do? It enabled me to run 26.2 miles and have a great time doing it.
I’m looking forward to incorporating those principles into training again this fall. And I expect they will be easier to hone now that I have an even stronger passion and appreciation for running – and my yoga practice that enhances it so beautifully.
Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.